In everyday life we do many things to prevent problems from occurring. For example, we may put dangerous chemicals up high to prevent children from drinking liquids that may be poisonous. We may put a baby gate at the top or bottom of the stairs to prevent a child from falling. These proactive strategies can also be called antecedent interventions.
Here are some strategies that may help to prevent your child from engaging in challenging behaviors, especially during the “Stay At Home” order where there are many changes occurring to their environment and schedule.
Do Things in Small Steps: This is especially important during the present time when there are many changes. Is your child having to sit in front of a computer, tablet, or phone for Zoom sessions for the first time? If so, they shouldn’t necessarily be expected to sit in front of the screen for hours at a time. Initially we can require them to sit for only a few minutes at a time, the provide a break. As the child demonstrates success with sitting, we can slowly increase the time that they are required to sit.
Set a Daily Schedule: Depending on your child’s abilities, this can be a visual schedule or a written schedule. Having set expectations for different times of the day may help to keep some structure. For example, you can have pictures of mealtime, toys, electronics time, outside time, etc. (You can ask your BCBA for help creating these materials!) Your daily schedule does not need to be the same every single day!
Give Notice of Transitions: A timer can be a useful tool to help children transition from one activity to another. Giving advance notice is also important. Rather than “iPad time is over!” and an abrupt stop, it would be helpful to give the child notice. For example, “In 5 minutes, iPad time will be all done,” then “In 2 minutes, we are going to go play outside.” When the timer goes off, you can say “Let’s turn off the iPad. Time to go outside now.”
One of the most important things is to be consistent and follow through with what you say. There may be a day where you are just too tired to wait out a tantrum- that’s okay! If you are feeling that way early on, it may be best to minimize the number of demands that you are giving at that point in time (aka- “choose your battles”). It wouldn’t be the best solution to decrease demands all the time, but in a specific instance, if it will help you to remain consistent, it is better to not give a demand at all than to give a demand and wind up giving in when an undesired behavior occurs.
Bearss, K., Johnson, C. R., Handen, B. L., Butter, E. M., Lecavalier, L., Smith, T., & Scahill, L. (2018). Parent training for disruptive behavior: the Rubi Autism Network. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press.